Sunday, November 28, 2010

Social outcasts on Gather, Newsvine, and other social networking sites

Anybody who remembers their years in school can remember at least one kid who was an 'oddball'. For whatever reason we felt that way as a kid, these other children were social outcasts. They were the ones that no one wanted to bother with, for one reason or another.

They were the kids you never picked as a teammate, when two teams chose players.

They were the kids that you always hit with the 'dodge' ball.

They were the ones who were not good at sports.

They were the ones who never played games with other kids in the schoolyard.

They were also the kids who cried because they did not get a blue ribbon for losing the Spelling Bee.

They were the ones that, as hard as they tried, could not fit it with the rest of the classmates.

The parents of these children, either never taught them the proper social skills they needed to live and play with other children, or rejected these children themselves.

Children rejected by their peers, may exhibit the following behavior as adults:

Difficulty sharing or taking turns

High rates of aggressive or disruptive behavior

High rates of inattentive, immature, or impulsive behavior

High rates of social anxiety

Psychological studies conclude that "Well-liked children show social savvy and know when and how to join play groups."

Unlike children in previous generations, social outcasts of this generation grew up with the Internet. They grew up with video games, virtual reality games, and hoards of violent video games.

Social outcasts will take on a hobby that quickly becomes obsessive or dangerously excessive, to the point where they cannot separate fantasy from reality.

Social networking sites have become breeding grounds for social outcasts. Social networking sites are the perfect place for social outcasts, because they believe that if others cannot see them, they cannot reject them. It gives them a false sense of security.

Anyone who has ever been on MySpace or Facebook in its infancy can see the drastic changes, which have occurred on those sites. There is a lot of obscene, provocative, and sexually oriented material on both of those sites now. Parents join MySpace and Facebook just to keep an eye on what their children are doing on there.

That brand of sleaze has worked its way onto the Gather social network as well of late.

Issues of privacy invasion have escalated on those sites as well, as many social outcasts take out their frustrations on a group of unseen, unknown 'players of the game', who they believe are responsible for the social rejection they received as children.

Social outcasts are doing the same thing now on other blogging sites and social networking sites. They can no more get along with the majority of internet users on these sites, than they could with children their own age when they were little.

One thing that social outcasts have been able to do on these Internet sites, is to find others like them, and it is extremely important that they become their Internet 'friend'. When enough of them get together, they finally feel as though they belong. Being a member of a group is essential for a healthy social identity.

Unfortunately, this can have negative consequences. When the anger and frustration of the social outcasts blends with others like themselves, the aggression and anti-social behavior can elevate to a dangerous level.

One example is my personal experience here on Gather. When these social outcasts read something posted that is the polar opposite of their point of view, they cannot debate or argue an issue the way socially accepted people do.

They react aggressively, and when another member of their circle of social outcasts read that reaction, they feed on it, and they react a little more aggressively. This quickly escalates, and each comment is more and more aggressive than the one before.

They will call you stupid, a moron, or an idiot. They will tell you that you are misinformed, or that you are misrepresenting facts or misleading readers.

These are all the things they were called as children; as social outcast or social rejects for those also rejected by their parents.

If you respond to their comments in the same fashion, in their eyes, they have accomplished something. They finally received an award or a blue ribbon; something they never received in school because they never participated in competitive events because of fear of further rejection.

If, however, you do not respond with anger or reciprocate their level of aggressiveness or anger, they become even more agitated. This will result in a social outcast, flagging a post as inappropriate, or as miscategorized.

They personally attack you, and then run to tell the teacher if you respond in king.

They believe that this is a way to get even. They view it as payback to those who rejected them. They also see a person with a different point of view, as a bully or a person responsible for their problems in their daily lives, as children and now as adults.

I have heard from others who have been here on Gather and Newswine for years that before the flagging system, there was a rating system. Social outcasts would deliberately rate posts of their 'imaginary bullies' with the lowest possible rating, regardless of the content.

In turn, they would rate posts of other social outcasts with the highest rating you could give here on Gather.

In order to beat these social outcasts at their own game is to reject them. Ignoring them seems to be the best way to show the social outcasts on Gather, that they need to receive help for their issues, and not try to project their problems onto those they disagree with on politics, religion, or any topic.

The message of this post is clear: Social outcasts who attack, insult, berate, or defame others on Gather, or on other social networking sites, need to seek therapy so that their level of rejection does not reach a violent stage.

One perfect example of this is in a comment below where he took my words on this post, and accused me of doing that.

I say, just as they tell alcoholics and drug addicts, that the first step toward recovery, is to admit you have a problem. Obviously, that commenter is not ready to take that first step.

Admitting that they have a problem getting along with others in social settings, and then getting help for those problems, will help them, and will unltimately help those they wish to harm, whether it be on the Internet or someone out in the real world.

The signs were there with the two students who murdered others at the Columbine High School. Their parents and the school chose to ignore the signs of the most disturbing aspects of social outcasts.

I hope we have all learned from that tragedy and will look for these signs in the children I described here so that they can grow up and be emotionally and mentally happy, and lead productive lives.